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Relying on the mysterious gift of the Holy Spirit

The Christian life, suffused with God’s Spirit, is one of constant communication, with the inner movements of the heart constantly reaching out to God and the Spirit continually prompting us how to act.

(Image: Thaï Ch. Hamelin / ChokdiDesign/Unsplash.com)

Jesus makes a startling statement at the Last Supper: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7). What could be better than Jesus’s presence alongside us? Only his presence within us, made possible by his gift of the Holy Spirit!

The Spirit is the breath and life of God, poured into us as the gift of God’s own love. Although it can be easy to overlook the role of the Spirit, we see that Jesus’s mission culminated in sending the Spirit upon his Church. In Confirmation, he gives each of us the most precious gift he has: his own Spirit to make us fully alive with his divine life, enabling us to live a supernatural life in the world. The Spirit teaches us how to pray and how to live, gives us gifts, and inspires us with courage to live out our mission.

This reliance begins with prayer. Paul explains that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). Prayer should not consist just in talking at God because it is an intimate union that happens within the heart. Prayer is certainly not a technique or something within our control. It is a movement from deep within us, led by the Spirit, that draws us into a loving communion with God. Taking regular time for prayer enables the Spirit to keep our heart open to his movements in us and to strengthen God’s presence within us.

The Christian life, suffused with the God’s Spirit, is one of constant communication, with the inner movements of the heart constantly reaching out to God and the Spirit continually prompting us how to act. Relying on the Spirit enables us to listen to these inner promptings, urging us to do something, giving us things to say, and holding us back from doing or saying something that would be harmful. Jesus promised that when we are in need, we should not be anxious because “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Lk 12:12). With the Spirit, we are not simply on our own.

The Spirit guides us not just for our own sake but for the building up of the Church. He gives gifts to all Christians that we call charisms: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). Paul gives examples, such as knowledge, wisdom, faith, healing, performing miracles, prophecy and the discernment of spirits. As a teacher, I know, for instance, when I am teaching beyond my abilities with the help of the Spirit and being prompted with new ideas and a deeper enthusiasm. We may have never realized what gifts the Spirit is giving us, but, when we pay attention, we can recognize how certain things seem to come easier than would ordinarily and are more powerful in their effect.

The Spirit asks us to be bold in doing good for others. When we look at the Acts of the Apostles, we see how the disciples went from cowering in fear to willingly facing persecution after Pentecost. They were simply different with the gift of the Spirit. Their prayer led them to action: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). Sometimes we think, “I could never do that,” and we are probably right. But, with God’s Spirit, we can do much more than we have ever imagined.

Although we can take it for granted, Jesus knew he was giving us what we most needed by leaving us his Spirit as his ultimate gift. Now, what will do with it? The Spirit’s presence can grow within us through prayer, a presence that will inspire us and guide us, leading us to serve others through the gifts that he gives, and giving us courage to do what is beyond our power. Relying on the Spirit in these ways will change everything — both within us and around us.


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About Dr. R. Jared Staudt 32 Articles
R. Jared Staudt PhD, serves as Associate Superintendent for Mission and Formation for the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor for the Augustine Institute. He is author of Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option (Angelico Press) and the editor of Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press). He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

3 Comments

  1. Does Augustine Institute make room at its inn for Aquinas? Aquinas’ teaching on the Holy Spirit is full-bodied, reasonable, and fitting. His understanding of the Holy Spirit is bound with his teaching on virtue – IOW, the Holy Spirit causes infusions of virtue to develop in the soul. The goal is to form Chrit, manifest in beatitude. The Mission of the Spirit, then, is to grow God’s love by developing Christ in the soul.

    Too many hold illusions that faith justifies the belief that one is filled to the brim with the Spirit. He is invoked as justification for much that cannot realistically be His work, according to the law of non-contradiction.

    How does God’s love – the Holy Spirit – dwell coterminously in the individual unfortunate enough to have mortal sin on the soul? Did Augustine know and develop that teaching? Did Aquinas? Where is grace and where is virtue and how are they recognized? Where is the meat in today’s Catholicism-Lite?

  2. Many theologians and observers at Vatican II noted how little we have corrected our neglect of pneumatology (theology of the Holy Spirit) in Catholic theology and spirituality. This sad state is still ongoing with many Catholics thinking and acting as if the Holy Spirit did not exist. This Holy Spirit Atheism is best evidenced in our most fundamental Christian act, that is, prayer. It is easy for most believers to pray to the creator God the Father and to the incarnate Word Jesus Christ, but in most instances the Holy Spirit is never factored in prayer. We have not understood and lived out the priestly prayer of Jesus in the fourth gospel: “I have to go now, in order that the Holy Spirit might come. And when the Spirit comes you will be taught all things.” The good news is we don’t have to wait for the 22nd ecumenical council of the Church (many say its not going to be Vatican III but either Manila I, Lagos I, or Mexico City I), I would say and invite fellow disciples, if we have our personal relationship with Jesus, try and start a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.

  3. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit (of Truth) was revealed through Christ and the Apostles (Acts 2.22,43) through signs, miracles, and wonders. We ought to bring to others the revelation of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the same manner. The lack of this in the modern Christian dialogue amounts to the “Holy Spirit Atheism” of our times, too.

    In J.R.R. Tolkien’s great story, the wizard Gandalf represents the prophetic tradition, and even Christ (where the language in the story near the climax is similar to the language in the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible that Tolkien would have read, at the point of the arrest and crucifixion, as I have shown in a published article). Gandalf reveals the power of God to those bound to the world, unable to perceive the invisible reality of the Spirit.

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